The Emotional Story Of America's Greatest Unrealized Talent

Perhaps the most tragic and remarkable story in American soccer, "The Unrelenting Charlie Davies" tells a tale of potential, tragedy and transcendence.

In 2006, Charlie Davies was the hottest prospect in all of American soccer. He’d returned from a knee injury suffered during his sophomore season with Boston College to score fifteen goals in sixteen games during his junior year. His performances made him a finalist for the Hermann Trophy, awarded to the top college soccer player, and had seen him included on the roster for the 2005 Elite Milk Cup competition.

His performances at the Elite Milk Cup, an international youth football tournament which has showcased the talents of players like Harry Kane, Wayne Rooney and Sergio Busquets, included a hat-trick in the final against hosts Northern Ireland - an achievement that would make him the MVP of the tournament.

Charlie Davies at Boston College

Charlie Davies as a Freshman at Boston College. Photo: @CharlieDavies9 | Twitter

Choosing to forgo his senior year at BC in order to turn professional, Davies was attracting interest from Premier League clubs as well as Dutch power Ajax. 

Over the next three years, Davies would breakthrough in Europe with Swedish club Hammarby and earn a 1.5 million Euro transfer to Ligue 1 club Sochaux.

 

Along with steadily climbing the European footballing ladder, Davies was now a regular with the United States national team. On August 12, 2009, he scored the most famous goal of his career, applying the finishing touch to a superb attacking move against Mexico at the Estadio Azteca in World Cup qualifying.

Only the fourth American to score in the Azteca, Davies was poised to lead the American line for the foreseeable future, including the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

Then, the unfathomable transpired. On October 13, 2009, two days before a World Cup qualifying match against Costa Rica in Washington D.C., Davies was a passenger in an SUV that went out of control on the George Washington Parkway, striking a railing and tearing the vehicle in half. 

The last person to hear from him in the United States squad was friend and teammate Oguchi Onyewu. Right before Onyewu went to bed that night he’d received a text message from Davies saying, “This girl is driving crazy.”

The devastating sight of a car sawed in half and the questions over how anybody could ever survive such a horrific accident were not far from the reality of the situation facing Davies. 

A lacerated bladder, fractured right tibia and femur, a fractured elbow, facial fractures and bleeding of the brain threatened to take away everything from the young, charismatic Davies. He was unrecognizable and in critical condition.  

Charlie Davies accident scars

The scars from the accident. Photo: @IBES16 | Twitter

For everyone around Davies, the questions being asked concerned his immediate health: Would he live? Would he ever walk or lead a normal life? Could Charlie ever really recuperate from that frightful night?

For Davies, his first thought upon waking up in the hospital was: “When can I get back on the field?”

Targeting a truly audacious return in time for the World Cup, he set about one of the most demanding and unrelenting rehabilitation regimes in all of athletics. Simply put, Charlie Davies was unrelenting.

The dream of playing in the World Cup was always farfetched, but the work that the forward put in was brutally pragmatic. Two years after the automobile accident, Davies made his debut on loan with D.C. United, scoring two goals and completing one of the most dramatic comebacks the sport has ever seen.

Now, Davies has signed permanently with the New England Revolution and is looking to continue his persistent improvement. At 29 years of age, Davies hasn’t given up on representing the United States again.

“Before the accident,” says Davies, “I feel I was ready to breakthrough on the world’s stage. If my career ended tomorrow, I will always feel that void left because that’s who I am regardless of what I’ve accomplished or what I’ve done. Just because I feel so unsatisfied.”

Over the course of the 2015 season, Davies led New England with 10 goals during the regular season. He also opened the 2016 season with a goal against the Houston Dynamo.

“It’s only a matter of time until I’ve convinced everyone that I’m back,” says Davies. 

You can watch Bryan Reisberg’s and Uncorked Productions “The Unrelenting Charlie Davies” in its entirety here:  

Videos you might like